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FAB 1. Early Bucs 53-Man Roster Prediction

Tampa Bay’s 2019 preseason begins in Pittsburgh on Friday, August 9, which is the start of the Bruce Arians era with the Buccaneers. Preseason play will dictate starting jobs and playing time for some, and roster spots for others. Based on watching two weeks of training camp, here is my initial Bucs’ 53-Man Roster Prediction.

I’ll be back in a couple weeks prior to the preseason finale at Dallas on Thursday, August 29, to make my final predictions before roster cut-down day, which is on Saturday, August 31 at 4:00 p.m. ET. Remember, there aren’t two roster cut-down days in the NFL anymore – just one cut from 90 players to 53.

QUARTERBACKS – 2

QB Jameis Winston
QB Blaine Gabbert
Analysis: Having dealt with injuries at the quarterback position in both Arizona and Tampa Bay, respectively, the Bucs’ brain trust of head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht will probably keep three quarterbacks on the roster, but that will depend on how unproven Ryan Griffin fares in the preseason. If Griffin doesn’t impress he may not be worth keeping and the Bucs could put a young, developmental QB on the practice squad instead. What we do know is that Winston is having a very good camp and is the entrenched starter with Gabbert, who has also had his moments where he’s shined, as the entrenched backup.

RUNNING BACKS – 4

RB Peyton Barber
RB Ronald Jones
RB Dare Ogunbowale
RB Andre Ellington
Analysis: Barber’s experience and skill set will probably make him the opening day starter for Tampa Bay, yet Jones has made a ton of progress and looks like a brand new back – the type of runner Licht thought he was getting with last year’s second-round pick. Jones has bulked up and is running with more power, tackle-breaking ability and confidence. And Jones has improved his hands, which is critical in Arians’ offense, which throws the ball to the backs quite a bit. Ogunbowale has had a great start to camp and has also bulked up to 220 pounds. He’s a gifted receiver and route runner and is challenging Ellington, a wily veteran who knows Arians offense, for the role of third-down back.

WIDE RECEIVERS – 6

Bucs WR Breshad Perriman
Bucs WR Breshad Perriman – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

WR Mike Evans
WR Chris Godwin
WR Breshad Perriman

WR Justin Watson
WR Scotty Miller
WR Bobo Wilson
Analysis: The first three receivers – Evans, Godwin and Perriman – are locks to make the roster. Evans has had a dominant camp and seems poised for another Pro Bowl season in Arians’ offense. Godwin looks as polished as a 10-year veteran in his third season in Tampa Bay and should eclipse 1,000 yards for the first time. Perriman has been a great addition as his 6-foot-2, 215-pound size shows up in the red zone, and his 4.3 speed makes him a vertical threat. Perriman and Winston already have a better downfield connection than Winston and DeSean Jackson ever did. Watson, a second-year receiver, has made some nice plays, but he needs to be more consistent catching the ball. He’s not a bigger version of Adam Humphries – yet. Humphries caught everything. Miller was making strides as a deep threat and run-after-the-catch guy until tweaking his hamstring. Still, he has a good shot at making the team, as does the improving Wilson, especially if he can show some juice in the return game on punts and kickoffs.

TIGHT ENDS – 3

TE O.J. Howard
TE Cameron Brate
TE Antony Auclair
Analysis: The Bucs love their three tight ends with Howard ready for a Pro Bowl-caliber season if he can stay healthy for 16 weeks. Howard has a chance for a monster year in Arians’ offense, which likes to attack teams vertically down the middle of the field. Brate is back and healthy, and looks like he did in 2017 when he had a breakout season. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has some two- and three-tight end sets in his arsenal. And with Howard getting most of the attention, look for Brate to exploit some favorable one-on-one match-ups. The Canadian Auclair is entering his third year of American football and is really developing nicely. He’s become more than just a blocker. Auclair has really improved his route running and his hands in the passing game.

OFFENSIVE LINE – 9

LT Donovan Smith
LG Ali Marpet
C Ryan Jensen
RG Alex Cappa
RT Demar Dotson
OL Earl Watford
C-G Evan Smith
OT Caleb Benenoch
OT Cole Boozer
Analysis: Tampa Bay will likely keep nine offensive linemen, on one of those nine was probably going to be Michael Liedtke before he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. That shuffles the deck a bit among the reserves, but the starters are set. Donovan Smith has battled a sore Achilles injury, but is set at left tackle next to Marpet at left guard. Marpet is already playing at a Pro Bowl level. This blocking scheme seems better suited for Jensen’s style of smash-mouth play and he looks more comfortable than he did a year ago, which was his first season in Tampa Bay. All eyes have been on Cappa at right guard, and he’s made tremendous progress in both run blocking and pass protection since making the transition from playing left tackle in college. Dotson is healthier than he was a year ago and has had a solid camp. Watford is a veteran newcomer familiar with the scheme and can play all five offensive line positions. He’s probably the first guy off the bench if there is an injury. Evan Smith had offseason hip surgery and looks fresher – even at age 33. He likely sticks as a backup center-guard unless one of the young guys really rises up in the preseason. Benenoch is back at tackle where he belongs and has made some strides. He’s been cross-trained at left and right tackle, while the athletic Boozer has improved and is making his mark at right tackle.

DEFENSIVE LINE – 6

Bucs DTs Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea
Bucs DTs Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

DT Ndamukong Suh
DT Vita Vea
DT Beau Allen
DE Will Gholston
DE Rakeem Nunez-Roches
DE Jeremiah Ledbetter
Analysis: The Bucs hope that Vea’s knee injury isn’t too serious and that he just misses the preseason. He’s a future star at nose tackle, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has used Vea’s athleticism up and down the line of scrimmage at both three-tech defensive tackle and also at defensive end. If Vea misses time, the veteran Allen, who has bulked up to around 330 pounds this offseason, is a capable starter. Suh has been a tremendous addition to the defensive line. He’s a no-nonsense tackle who plays with power and aggression. Gholston has bulked up to over 300 pounds and finally looks comfortable in a defense in Tampa Bay. He’s always had a 3-4 defensive end build and he’s playing with power and confidence as a run stopper on the strong side. Nunez-Roches has had an outstanding camp and is versatile enough to play all three spots and he’s also a factor on special teams. Ledbetter has made huge strides in camp and is focused on making the 53-man roster. He’s added some size and can back up Gholston or Suh.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS – 5

MO Lavonte David
MIKE Devin White
MO Deone Bucannon
MIKE Kevin Minter
MIKE Devante Bond
Analysis: David will miss the preseason as he recovers from meniscus surgery and was having a stellar camp before injuring his knee. Such a cerebral player, David already knows Bowles’ scheme and should flourish in it this year. White, the team’s first-round pick, has really come on after a so-so first week of camp. He’s playing fast and confident and making plays as he continues to grasp the scheme. Bucannon will start in place of David at the MO ‘backer spot until David returns. He’s a fast player that excels in coverage and is aggressive enough to be effective in run support and as a blitzer. Minter is a wily veteran MIKE linebacker that has served as a mentor to White as they both come from LSU. He knows Bowles’ defense inside and out and is great blitzer and run stuffer. Bond has really improved as an inside linebacker after spending his first few years in Tampa Bay at strongside outside linebacker. He’s an athletic core special teams player who is learning both the MIKE and MO positions.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS – 5

SLB Carl Nassib
WLB Noah Spence
WLB Shaquil Barrett
SLB Anthony Nelson
SLB David Kenney
WLB Jason Pierre-Paul*

Analysis: Nassib is the starting SAM outside linebacker on the strong side and seems ready for a big contract year as a strong, quick and aggressive pass rusher. Spence has made huge strides as an outside linebacker on the weak side after toiling away as a 4-3 defensive end where he was miscast over the last three seasons. Spence isn’t strong in coverage, but can rush the passer and has given Smith fits off the edge. Barrett has been a nice veteran addition and can rush the passer from the strong side, the weakside or blitz inside lining up over a guard. A knee injury has slowed Nelson’s progress, but the Bucs like what they see so far from him as an edge-setter on the strong side. Kenney is a dark horse to make the team, especially since he missed the first 10 days of camp with an Achilles injury. But he has unreal anticipation and burst off the ball as an edge rusher and an interior blitzer, and could light it up in the preseason as a pass rusher. Pierre-Paul won’t count against the 53-man roster as he should start the year on the NFI-Injured Reserve list and be eligible to return at mid-season following his car crash in May. At least that’s the plan for now.

CORNERBACKS – 5

Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting
Bucs CB Sean Murphy-Bunting – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

CB Vernon Hargreaves
CB Carlton Davis
NCB Sean Murphy-Bunting
CB Jamel Dean
CB Mazzi Wilkins
Analysis: Coaching matters in the NFL, and cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross has done an outstanding job of working with his young corners, especially Hargreaves, who is flying around with confidence and making plays. Hargreaves looks to be locking down one starting spot and Davis appears to have a tight grip on the other cornerback job. He just needs to make more plays on the ball. Murphy-Bunting is a future star at cornerback and has the ball skills that will allow him to play early as a rookie, especially in the slot in nickel defense where he has shined in camp. Dean is a developmental talent and will be a good player for years to come, but the fact that he’s sidelined with an injury is slowing his progress. Wilkins has flashed some playmaking ability in camp and could make the team as the fifth cornerback as Ryan Smith, a special teams star, will begin the season with a four-game suspension. The Bucs could also keep four cornerbacks and six safeties as M.J. Stewart can play both positions.

SAFETIES – 5

SS Jordan Whitehead
FS Mike Edwards
SS Kentrell Brice
SS-NCB M.J. Stewart
FS Justin Evans
Analysis: Whitehead has gained 10 pounds of muscle this offseason and looks like a legit safety this year. He’s always been a physical player, but has been real solid in coverage in camp. Edwards is a playmaker at the cornerback position with interceptions and sacks. He’s flashed right out of the gate and should start alongside Whitehead. D’Cota Dixon really impressed in camp as a rookie and had a chance to make it if not for a season-ending injury. Instead, Brice, a veteran makes the team along with Stewart, who is versatile enough to play nickel, outside corner or strong safety. Stewart is seeing time as a blitzing safety and a run stopper, and has made strides in coverage. Still, his lack of elite speed is apparent and he’s still in the trail position too often while covering slot receivers. Evans hasn’t played or practiced since November due to a toe injury on one foot, followed by a heel injury on the other. Evans has plenty of talent and playmaking ability, but can he stay healthy?

SPECIAL TEAMS – 3

Bucs K Matt Gay
Bucs K Matt Gay – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

P Bradley Pinion
K Matt Gay
LS Zach Triner
Analysis: The Bucs’ special teams battery is completely knew this year. Pinion replaces Bryan Anger and will handle punts and kickoffs, while Triner is the new long snapper. The preseason will determine if Gay, a fifth-round pick with a booming leg, is accurate enough to win the kicking duties over veteran Cairo Santos, who has limited range. The guess here is that Gay gets the job.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

15 COMMENTS

  1. Really enjoyed this Fab5 Scott. Best part was reading about coach Ross and how he’s working with the young secondary. I plan on watching the back 7 real hard on tonight’s game because we played so soft last year.

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    Rating: +12. From 12 votes.
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  2. QB Jameis Winston
    QB Blaine Gabbert
    A duo for the ages

    Right up there with
    QB Joe Montana
    QB Steve Young

    Good new Bucs fan no team could look worse than AZ did last night

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    Rating: -40. From 44 votes.
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  3. I hope they can find two better O lineman then E. Smith, and Benenoch. If those are our best back ups, we’re in trouble. I’ve never been impressed with Bond as a LB, hope someone shows better then him. His biggest problem is staying healthy, and being consistent. I think if Justin Evans doesn’t get his ass on the field soon why keep him? He’s never played a snap in this new defense, and some have him listed as starter. That doesn’t make sense to me, it’s not like he’s ever even come close to living up to the hype he gets. Can’t make the club if you live in the tub! Lastly JPP. I know he won’t count against the 53 till he can play, but his 7 million owed will count towards the cap of which we don’t have much of. Besides, he’s listed at OLB a position he’s never played. I can’t imagine him covering a TE, or a back out of the back field, can you? He’s a pure 4-3 D end IMO, think I’d move on from him considering he’s be playing out of position, oh and he has a broken neck! Remember, all the players I’ve mentioned were not drafted, or brought in by this regime. I could seeing them all coming back if we kept the old staff, but this new staff must realize all these players have been part of two years of 5-11. Better coaching should help, but I think we need to find better talent at the bottom of the roster, not keep the same failures.

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    Rating: +4. From 10 votes.
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  4. What I saw watching the Ogunbowale highlight video: A whole bunch of offensive linemen I wish we had here now!

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    Rating: +5. From 5 votes.
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  5. Cole Gardner, Cole Boozer??? I agree for the most part but need to see some preseason games. There are obvious veterans and FA, but surprised to see only one UDFA. We have a lot of talent we are going to lose when we put them on PR.

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  6. I’d be getting worried about Drew Lock if I were you Bob.

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    Rating: +4. From 4 votes.
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  7. I’d be shocked if we only kept 3 TEs, especially without a FB on the roster.

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    Rating: +8. From 8 votes.
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  8. How about your team the Broncos, DumbAssBob. They looked pretty pathetic against the Seahawks with the Broncos old QB, the gangly 6’7 Paxton Lynch loping in and blasting through a Bronco DB for the score.
    Hilarious stuff.

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    Rating: +8. From 8 votes.
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  9. Reality check I guess: I find that 53 pretty frustrating TBH.

    It has the same weak links we’ve had for years – LT, OG (at one point LG now RG), DE/OLB…now our supposed pro bowl-in-waiting safety is not even expected to start the year. Our breakout running back isn’t named Jones (or even Barber) but Ogunbowale…we’re rotating in more young DBs to start alongside VHIII, who having been out is now back in I guess.

    I am happy that VHIII is being given a chance – I have believed in his talent but somebody needs to get him up on the line if he’s going to be outside. If he plays off coverage again, and then everyone complains that really he should be in slot, I am going to lose it.

    I like Nassib and I like Barber – I just don’t think either is a top-tier player at their position. They are the sidekicks to be playing with tier 1 guys….which we have not acquired (how good would Josh Allen look right about now starting opposite Nassib).

    I hate D Smith and all of the RGs on the roster….again this year (same comment as last year, and the year before).

    I am sure this will get many “thumbs downs” but that 53 looks eerily familiar. Thanks Jason Licht, you’re doing a heck of a job.

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    Rating: -6. From 10 votes.
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  10. Sucks Vea May miss up to the first 4 games but there is a chance he will be ready Week 1. At least he’s not lost for the season.

    Can’t wait to see how the Roster falls into place once we see the Youth hitting guys for real over the next few weeks. Hoping for the best and excited as hell! Hopefully Cappa will see a lot of Preseason action and we get to see how he’s progressing.

    If there is a decent Dlineman released that can be had for $7mil or less before the season starts I think the Bucs will be hard pressed not to release JPP and let him try and find a 4-3 to finish his career with.

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    Rating: +6. From 6 votes.
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  11. Excellent analysis. I pray we stay healthy. Seeing so many players sidelined is depressing. But you have to be impressed with the development of Spence, ROJO, Cappa, Perriman, and Whitehead. I hope our OL can stay intact. Winston is going to be a beast this year. GO Bucs!

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    Rating: +10. From 10 votes.
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  12. I subtly remember a Chiefs player named Ross, even Kevin Ross; but, I didn’t realize our new Db coach was the same guy.

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    Rating: +6. From 6 votes.
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  13. Our Starters look pretty good, but Defense gave up way too many big plays. White was a nonfactor in the first half. Our 2nd teams on both sides of the ball look pretty bad. I am not impressed with our new defense at all in the first half of the first game. I am going to say it right now. Matt Gay is the best pick in this draft. Our first two picks look like they have a long way to go.

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    Rating: -1. From 5 votes.
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  14. Looks like our Punter will get a lot of work this year.

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  15. I feel like there’s a real battle to be watched between Ogunbowale and Bond on special teams, which could affect whether the team keeps Bond or Tanner Hudson. Recalling that DO was getting some personal protector reps on camp, if he lands that job I think the Bucs may need to keep Hudson. The 3 TE may play a lot and that seems to imply needing a 4th, and Hudson won’t last long if he doesn’t make the 53, I don’t think.

    But depth on the back part of the roster is not a bad problem to haves

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    Rating: +4. From 4 votes.
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